Protesters in Hackney show their solidarity with Diane Abbott after Frank Hester’s comments

Up to 1,000 anti-racists gathered outside Hackney town hall, east London, on Friday in solidarity with local MP Diane Abbott after top Tory donor Frank Hester’s racist comments about her.

Protesters raged against the British establishment’s disgusting treatment of Abbott, who has faced a huge amount of bigotry. They chanted, “We stand with Diane,” and, “If you mess with Diane Abbott, you mess with us.”

Abbott told the crowd, “You don’t become the first woman black MP just like that. It is the people of Hackney who have stood by me year after year and decade after decade. This is not about me, this is about the level of racism that is still in Britain—the way black women are still disrespected today.”

“My mother came here in the 1950s as a nurse. She was from the generation of black women that helped to build the NHS.

“When they came then, they were put in a special grade and were restricted from senior roles and put on night shifts.

“The disrespect hasn’t changed and comes year after year. I stood outside here a year ago in solidarity with a black girl who was strip-searched by police. But there still hasn’t been an apology.

“We need to stand up and stand firm. Generations of young black people shouldn’t suffer the racism that we’ve suffered.”

Natalie, who came to the protest from west London, told Socialist Worker, “Diane Abbott has faced racism for a long time. It’s been diabolical. We’ve seen the bullying that Abbott was subjected to in her party and nothing has happened”.

Marissa Childs, chair of the Hackney Schools Group Board, told Socialist Worker, “We are all Diane and Diane is us. When Hester said she should be shot, he was speaking about all black women.

“It’s disgusting and the racism is exhausting. At 70 years old, Diane stood up 46 times in parliament to be called by the Speaker this week and was ignored. We are all out here, as black women, to defend her.”

Jackie, a lawyer working for Hackney council, told the crowd, “From the very start, Diane has been subject to abuse. I’ve seen it first hand.

“Frank Hester has tried to distort Diane’s legacy and use racism and sexism to divide us. We won’t tolerate any attempt to divide us.”

Another speaker said, “This is about violence against black women. This is about the Tories’ constant racism. We are angry. And we won’t stop being angry.”

“Rishi Sunak’s apology was trying to say let’s get back to business. But we aren’t going to let the Tories get away with it.”

Join SUTR’s national protests to Stop Racism, Stop the Hate on 16 March in London and Glasgow and 17 March in Cardiff. Details at standuptoracism.org.uk
Join House Against Hate from 3pm-7pm outside Downing Street in London 

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